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Why It Matters

Big push for critical thinking

It is crucial that even scientists, engineers and mathematicians look beyond their own fields of expertise to solve problems that are increasingly complex, said Professor Bertil Andersson, president of Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

Some of the solutions may be found in the study of human attitudes, perspectives and behaviour.

NTU this week announced that it will have two new schools - for humanities and social sciences - next August. The move to split its existing School of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) into two is significant, at a time when Singapore is seeing a greater need for research in the social sciences.

NTU's big push in this area "will boost students' ability to think critically about the tough choices facing society in a rapidly changing world driven by technology, global connectedness and climate change", said Prof Andersson.

Existing programmes such as Chinese, English, history and linguistics and multilingual studies will fall under the School of Humanities, while the School of Social Sciences will house economics, psychology, public policy and global affairs, and sociology.

HSS, established in 2004, has grown from having just 60 economics students into one of NTU's largest schools with more than 3,700 students today.

Over the years, it has added to its repertoire of bachelor programmes in history, philosophy, public policy and global affairs, and its minor programmes such as translation, creative writing and film studies have attracted even those in science and engineering.

With the reorganisation, students will have more course choices in terms of both breadth and depth. There will be further growth in specific disciplines and more room for interdisciplinary programmes.

NTU is known for its science and technology focus, but it is making a big interdisciplinary push in the years ahead, with plans to form a research committee to work on areas like sustainability and healthy living.

In these times, creative thinking and the ability to connect the dots across disciplines are vital, as social norms evolve and there is a greater need for fresh perspectives in policy.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 04, 2016, with the headline 'Big push for critical thinking'. Print Edition | Subscribe